One of the things in my most wanted list has been a dimple on my cheek. Absurd yes but I wanted it nevertheless. My grandmother was a beautiful lady. Not in the classical Bengalee way but she had powerful, intelligent looks that made her look almost regal. Her oval face with almond-shaped eyes, a sharp straight nose and a small delicate mouth all exuding intelligence and a tinge of arrogance. And her honey-coloured skin remained as smooth and flawless till she died of cancer in her mid seventies. And she had a dimple on her right cheek that gave her disarming charm when she smiled.
She never spoke any tongue other than Bengali even with her Jewish American daughter-in-law. While all grandmothers gave their newborn grandchildren gold coins or at least silver bangles when welcoming the newborns to the family, she had given me a red rose from her garden saying “May your life be as beautiful as this flower...” (as narrated by my irked mother). But for someone who learned to read and write after marriage (tutored by my loving grandfather) she spoke rather well. I am sure if she was born in the current era and had the right exposure she would have rocked the corporate world.
Theirs was a love marriage. My grandfather’s eyes fell upon this non-traditional beauty frolicking in the village pond in Barishal (now in, Bangladesh) and fell in love. The fact that she was amply endowed and lissome had a lot to do with it too I guess (Amen!). My grandmother along with her other siblings were brought up in her maternal uncle’s household after her mother died and her father remarried. Her aunt and uncle were well heeled and childless and therefore there were no dearth of love and affection or good life in their household. My grandfather’s family wasn’t rich. In fact, their lone claim to fame was that he was the first graduate in his village. But education to a Bengalee was as valued as money itself if not more. Therefore, when his father approached her uncle with the proposal, it was a match made in heaven. They only got sneak peeks of each other on the path to the village pond and love happened, just like that. She told me when I was at an age to see boys, that she was completely enamoured by his strong, silent looks which later blossomed to love for the honest, principled and loving man. (Look for a man like that, she had said) And then they were married off.
I am yet to see two people more in love with each other than them. There was never any overt display but each took care of the slightest need of the other. He would make the morning tea for her and ensure that the cream from the fresh-boiled milk mixed with sugar was served to her everyday at lunch because she loved it. Rub Amratanjan on her forehead when her migraines became severe. Helping her to wrap her saree in the modern way when they had to go someplace in the city. Little acts of kindness. And they spoke louder than words. There was nothing that could separate them from each other. Not his cranky mother, not the hardship of rearing their eight children, or the frugal household budget nor his frequent transfers to remote villages (he served in the Police and retired as DGP). They stayed by each other till he died of Parkinson’s in his late eighties and she a year later.
Coming back to the dimple, two of my cousins, both younger than me, inherited her dimple though not her looks. I remember standing in front of a mirror and freezing my smile at an angle that gave a slight hint of a dimple. This I did for months without any visible effect and then blaming the Gene God for playing dirty and cheating me off my rightful inheritance.